McCrabb: Charity football game touches lives in Butler County, Dayton

Sleep in Heavenly Peace Butler County one organization to benefit from game.

Six NFL teams, owned by billionaires with millionaire athletes, played three professional football games before sold-out crowds on Thanksgiving.

Broadcast on national TV, the games featured hours of pregame shows, sideline reporters, talking heads in the broadcast booths, impressive renditions of the national anthem, lavish halftime performances and then more postgame discussions.

The NFL had nothing on backyard touch football games that were played in Springboro a few hours earlier.

That’s when the true meaning of Thanksgiving played out during games organized by Jay Nemeth, a State Farm Insurance agent and president of the Middletown Rotary Club.

For the last 30 years, Nemeth traveled to his hometown of Medina, Ohio every Thanksgiving with his family and played in the Mike Meadows Turkey Bowl, a game that kicked off with some high school buddies and ballooned into the Super Bowl of fundraisers.

From its humbling beginnings when $800 was raised by passing a hat, the group donated more than $3 million to the Medina St. Vincent de Paul Society.

If it worked in Medina, Nemeth thought it would work closer to home.

So Jay and his wife, Trish, organized the inaugural Nemeth Bowl with the proceeds benefiting two very worthwhile causes: Sleep in Heavenly Peace Butler County, an organization that builds beds for the less fortunate, and to a Dayton family that needs a front door and a HVAC system.

By 10 a.m. Thursday, 21 people, including the six boys from Jay’s and Trish’s blended families, Aidan Kraus, 21, Jake Nemeth, 21, Drake Kraus, 18, Ben Kraus, 16, and Jared Nemeth, 16. said they were playing in the football games. The four teams were selected by the players counting off 1, 2, 3, and 4.

I’m not sure who won the games or the name of the MVP.

That doesn’t matter.

Everyone had an enjoyable time despite a few sore muscles and money was raised.

While Nemeth said he didn’t have a financial goal, about $10,000 has been raised so far without any cooperate sponsors. Most of the donations from family and friends were less than $100.

“Everybody gives a little,” he said.

Mike and Eileen Watkins, who organize the Sleep in Heavenly Peace Butler County program, said more than 2,200 beds have been built and distributed in the county with about 40% in Hamilton, 40% in Middletown and the rest throughout the county. Even in Liberty Twp. West Chester and Monroe.

Poverty knows no boundaries.

“We don’t ever deliver a bed to someone who has a really nice house,” Mike Watkins said. “We don’t know what we’re walking into. We don’t judge, but kids don’t get to pick who their parents are or their living conditions.”

His wife said the need for beds is “never going to be completely fixed, but there’s something we can do. It’s nice to see people supporting the mission.”

Some of the money will be used to replace a piece of plywood that covers a front door of a Dayton family and possibly install an HVAC system. Trish Nemeth, a school teacher, said one of her three sons befriended a student at Emerson Academy in Dayton.

While picking up the boy, she noticed there was no front door. Just a piece of plywood and since the house doesn’t have heat, the family depends on space heaters and the stove.

That’s all about to change.

“A really cool thing,” she said of how the proceeds will be used. “It’s remarkable what we take for granted in our lives.”

Jay Nemeth then gathered everyone together in his front yard. He went over the game rules, thanked his wife and ended with a prayer.

Then it was time for kickoff.

“I can’t imagine a better way to spend Thanksgiving,” he said.

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